The "Walk-Out" - was it right or was it wrong?
I've received plenty of emails, tweets and questions during meetings asking about the Pakatan Rakyat "walk-out" during the passing of the Peaceful Assemblly Bill 2011 debate in parliament earlier in December.
Without going into the merits of the walkout, perhaps its better for me to explain what happened that day and the parliamentary process. This will at the very least clarify some of the misinformation doing its rounds and give you a clearer picture of what actually happened.
1. Pakatan Rakyat was given only 3 speakers to speak. Hence only 1 rep from each party. The top leaders spoke - about 20 min each - Anwar, Kit Siang and Hadi. So we all spoke and all the points the civil society and the Bar Council raised were all raised in parliament. You can check the speeches in the Hansard which can be downloaded from the www.parlimen.gov.my website. No more speakers were allowed and the Speaker dictates the order in parliament.
2. There is no room for amendments at all. Full stop. BN had no intent on incorporating any of the proposals by Pakatan or others into the Act. For everyone's information, it has never happened in the history of Malaysian parliament where any single amendment proposals or motions by the opposition were adopted. The parliament will and can pass any law tabled by the BN govt with sheer brute majority. The only exception is that the constitution can only be amended with 2/3 majority which we have denied. For the 1st time in recent history, there were no constitutional amendments proposed during the current term.
Hence aside from the above, the Parliament is a "rubber stamp" due to BN majority and the exercise of the Whip who controls all their MPs votes.
3. Hence the only difference was the "voting" being carried out in our presence or absence. The outcome is already a forgone conclusion. It makes absolutely no practical purpose to stay and vote because the BN MPs are out in force to ensure the bill's passage.
Finally, again without judging whether we should have walked out or not - we walked out only after we have exhausted all practical channels to reject or amend the bill, and after it was made absolutely clear from BN's side that they have no intent to make any changes to the bill. We walked out to protest the "tyranny of majority" by BN in parliament and their refusal to accede to the voice of the people, especially to set up a parliamentary select committee on PAB. It made a mockery of the parliamentary institution which we were not willing to take part in.
Hope the above makes it clearer on the situation.
But as I've mentioned many times during Q&A sessions during townhalls and forums, the public backlash as a result of the walkout, whether justified or otherwise will certainly make Pakatan MPs think twice about such moves in the future. This is because perception of the walkout, regardless of whether it is misinformed or actual, is what matters most at the very end of the day.